Designer James Davie tells us why his library is his favorite room.
Our library is actually a library by accident. This used to be my partner Mark’s and my dining room but we both agreed it wasn’t big enough for entertaining. We decided to give it a new purpose. Since the word ‘den’ reminds me of 1960–70s Dadsville, I rationed that as long as this room had books in it we could call it a library. I drew a lot of inspiration from the grandeur of the wonderful public libraries in New York, where I lived in my late 20s — mind you, I had to tone it down a little! Embracing objects’ imperfections for their inherent beauty are words I live by in design, and when you’ve got two young boys under the age of four like Mark and I do, well-worn materials are the most forgiving.
Another driving force behind the design was a vintage mantel I imported from Paris. The pink, purple and gold-hued marble didn’t look like any stone I’d seen before. The fireplace was originally built for wood-burning use with a flue and chimney, but I updated it with a gas log set. I threw in andirons to hold the “wood” — to complete the fireplace illusion — and added a fender to rest our feet on, like you would have done in days gone by.
Bringing exterior architectural elements inside is one of my signatures. In fact, I often enjoy the architectural aspects of a project more than the decorating. To reflect that in our library, I designed a pair of bookcases with a half-column treatment and architrave moldings punctuated by studs, details typically found on the cornices of centuries-old buildings. I also chose a castellated lantern reminiscent of the lighting historically used outdoors. For the walls, I chose a Studio Printworks wallpaper that emulates exterior masonry with its trompe-l’oeil effect.
I regularly troll salvage shops and I’m addicted to online auctions. I probably do 50 to 70 per cent of my sourcing through online auctions. One of my go-to sites is LiveAuctioneers, which aggregates all of the antique auctions happening around the world at any one time. If I’m looking for something in particular, say a 48-inch wide Biedermeier demilune table, they’ll email me when one magically surfaces. I had a search going for almost a year before the perfect Louis Philippe mirror presented itself for the spot above our fireplace.
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